Russian troops invading Ukraine have made some progress in the southern part of the country but are facing a logistics breakdown with vehicles running out of fuel and troops running out of food, a senior defense official said March 1.
It is day six of the invasion and in the northern part of the country the lines remain about where they were yesterday, the official said. “To the north of Kyiv, we are continuing to observe Ukrainians resisting Russian advances on the city.”
Russian troops are close enough to launch missiles into Kyiv and there are reports of civilian casualties and infrastructure damage. The attack on Kyiv seems to be the Russian main effort. There is a large column of Russian troops and vehicles headed toward the city that has not made appreciable movement over the past day. Part of this is the Ukrainian resistance, part is the logistics meltdown, the official said. The halt also could be “as a result of their own self-determined sort of pause in operations [and] that they are possibly regrouping, rethinking, reevaluating.” The Russian attack on Kharkiv in Ukraine’s northeast continues and there have been reports of heavy fighting. “We still believe that the Russians are trying to encircle Kharkiv,” the official said.
Ukrainian officials said Russia used thermobaric weapons on the city. These bombs suck in the oxygen in the surrounding air to generate a powerful explosion. The official could not confirm the use of the weapon but did say the Russians have launcher systems that could be used for thermobaric weapons. The official also could not confirm Russia is using cluster bombs.
In the south, the Russian invaders made progress threatening Kerson and approaching Mariupol. The official said Kerson is still contested and that Russian forces are close enough to Mariupol to launch long-range fires at the city.
The official said there is no evidence that Belarussian troops have entered Ukraine.
The air domain is still contested, and Russia has now launched roughly 400 short-range and medium-range ballistic and cruise missiles.
U.S. officials assess that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has command and control over his armed forces, and he is exercising it.
The Russian attack has created roughly 500,000 Ukrainian refugees, the official said.
There are indications the Russians are readjusting and changing their tactics, but “that said, there has been in the last six days evidence of a certain risk averse behavior by the Russian military,” the official said.
“Take the amphibious assault, for instance,” the official said. “They put those troops ashore, a good 70 kilometers away from Mariupol, because they knew Mariupol was going to be defended, and they could put them ashore in an uncontested environment. And they still haven’t reached Mariupol.”
U.S. officials are seeing the same sort of activity in terms of in the air domain. “There’s a certain risk averse behavior, they are not necessarily willing to take high risks with their own aircraft and their own pilots,” the official said. “And of course, we’re seeing that on the ground: The fairly slow and stodgy progress that they have made.”
Some Russian units are surrendering without a fight. Others are made up of inadequately trained conscripts who have never been in combat before. “Some of them, we believe, weren’t even told they were going to be in combat,” he said.
The official said the Russians are not risk averse to causing civilian casualties.